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Thinking through Technology

The Path between Engineering and Philosophy

What does it mean to think about technology philosophically? Why try? These are the issues that Carl Mitcham addresses in this work, a comprehensive, critical introduction to the philosophy of technology and a discussion of its sources and uses.

Tracing the changing meaning of "technology" from ancient times to our own, Mitcham identifies the most important traditions of critical analysis of technology: the engineering approach, which assumes the centrality of technology in human life; and the humanities approach, which is concerned with its moral and cultural boundaries.

Mitcham bridges these two traditions through an analysis of discussions of engineering design, of the distinction between tools and machines, and of engineering science itself. He looks at technology as it is experienced in everyday life—as material objects (from kitchenware to computers), as knowledge ( including recipes, rules, theories, and intuitive "know-how"), as activity (design, construction, and use), and as volition (knowing how to use technology and understanding its consequences). By elucidating these multiple aspects, Mitcham establishes criteria for a more comprehensive analysis of ethical issues in applications of science and technology.

This book will guide anyone wanting to reflect on technology and its moral implications.

405 pages | 8 halftones, 4 line drawings, 9 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1994

Culture Studies

Philosophy: General Philosophy

Philosophy of Science

Table of Contents

Prefatory Notes and Acknowledgments
Introduction: Thinking about Technology
Background and Standpoint
Collections and Conferences
Themes and Variations
1: Engineering Philosophy of Technology
Mechanical Philosophy and the Philosophy of Manufactures
Ernst Kapp and Technology as Organ Projection
Technology and Politics according to Peter Engelmeier and Others
Friedrich Dessauer and Technology as Encounter with the Kantian Thing-in-Itself
The Intellectual Attraction and Power of the Technical
2: Humanities Philosophy of Technology
Lewis Mumford: The Myth of the Machine
Jose Ortega y Gasset: Meditation on Technics
Martin Heidegger: The Question concerning Technology
Excursus on Ortega and Heidegger
Jacques Ellul: Technology as the Wager of the Century
3: From Engineering to Humanities Philosophy of Technology
The Two Philosophies in Tension: A Dialogue
Two Attempts at Reconciliation
The Question of Marxist Philosophy of Technology
A Brief for the Primacy of Humanities Philosophy of Technology
4: The Philosophical Questioning of Technology
Science and Ideas
Technology and Ideas
Conceptual Issues
Logic and Epistemological Issues
Ethical Issues
Issues of Political Philosophy
Religious Issues
Metaphysical Issues
Questioning the Questions
5: Philosophical Questions about Techne
Observations on the History of Technology
Techne and Technology
Philosophy of Technology versus Philosophia Technes
6: From Philosophy to Technology
Engineering Objections to Humanities Philosophy of Technology
Philosophical Objections to Humanities Philosophy of Technology
Two Usages of the Term "Technology"
The Extension of "Technology"
A Framework for Philosophical Analysis
7: Types of Technology as Object
The Spectrum of Artifacts
Types of Machines
The Machine (and Object) as Process
The Engineering Analysis of Machines
Physical, Chemical, and Biological Artifacts
Animal Artifacts, Social Artifacts, the Planet as Artifact
On the Human Experience of Tools and Machines
The Social Dimension of Artifacts
Toward a Phenomenology of Artifacts
8: Types of Technology as Knowledge
Cognitive Development and Myth in Technology
The Phenomenology of Technical Skill
Maxims, Laws, Rules, and Theories
Against Technology as Applied Science
Ancient and Modern Technology
9: Types of Technology as Activity
Technology as Activity
The Action of Making
The Process of Using
Work: From Alienated Labor to "Action into Nature"
Again, Ancient versus Modern Technology
10: Types of Technology as Volition
Philosophies of Technology as Volition
Volition as a Conceptual Problem in Relation to Technology
Philosophies of Volition in Relation to Technology
Toward Ethics
Technology and Weakness of the Will
Conclusion: Continuing to Think about Technology
The Argument Revisited
Science, Technology, and Society Studies
Epilogue: Three Ways of Being-with Technology
Being-with: From Persons to Technics
Ancient Skepticism
Enlightenment Optimism
Romantic Uneasiness

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